Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ah! How Wretched

This is the fourth painting in the actress series: Helena Modjeska as Marguerite Gautier in Camille.

Ms. Modjeska was a Polish immigrant who fled her country in 1876 and eventually settled in a Polish agricultural colony in the small pioneer village of Anaheim, California. The colony suffered financial failure during the drought and depression of 1877, and Ms. Modjeska was forced to learn English and return to the stage—first in the title role of Adrienne Lecouvreur, soon followed by appearances as Ophelia, Juliet and Camille (Marguerite Gautier). Over the next thirty years she became one of America’s most beloved actresses. Modjeska was featured (anonymously) as the fictional actress, Maryna Zalezowska, in the Susan Sontag novel, In America.

The challenge of painting a scene from Camille was in the creation of a Victorian room on a Victorian stage, a room that could theoretically be disassembled between acts, and yet have the feel of an overfilled Victorian era sitting room on a stage in late nineteenth-century California.

The scene is at the beginning of the play, when Marguerite, having been discomposed by a bout of coughing during a party at her apartment, says, “Ah! How wretched I look!”

The lighting was chosen to replicate the nature of stage lighting, which causes a spot lighted subject to leap into sharp focus while the rest of the set fades to murky darkness. The wooden floor implies the frontier aspect of the California theater, and the costume replicates existing apparel from the photography of Ms. Modjeska.

And this weekend, I start the last painting in this six-part series, Maud Adams as Peter Pan.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What's done is redone

The Divine Sarah as Lady M is back on the canvas (or board, as the case may be). It's a better painting for it, despite the loss of a week that I could've been working on other pieces.

The scene is from the sleep-walking, out-damn-spot part of the play. "What's Done Cannot Be Undone."

Castle wall background courtesy of the University of the South.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What's Done Cannot be Undone

This is the title of my forthcoming painting of Sarah Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth, my most annoying and difficult painting to date (at least in this actress project).

Everyone has a vague idea of what Berhardt looked like from all the posters by Alphonse Mucha, but I'm here to tell you: everyone is wrong.

Sarah Bernhardt has a big nose, an overbite, eyes spaced wide apart and frizzy hair combed into a myriad of different combinations. I know this because I've looked at a jillion (yes, a jillion is a lot) pictures of her. I've been working (unsuccessfully) on a portrait of her as Lady Macbeth for the past several months, and last evening, I simply painted her out of the picture. Back to square one.

I had photographed my model reference using a low, creepy light source (footlights), and try as I might, I could not get the model to resemble the Divine Sarah. Her features are just too unusual for me to replicate into a normal looking person with that bizarre lighting. So it's back to the drawing board. I'm going to use my second choice reference photo, and--this is the important part--I've found a photo of Sarah's face that matches the reference almost exactly.

After piddling with it for three months, I hate to start over at this late date, but there it is. Apparently what's done actually can be undone.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Always with the negative waves, Moriarty

...a line from one of my favorite movies, Kelly's Heroes.

It appalls me how much negativity is on the web. Recently I've been listening to a book on CD, The Shark Mutiny (typical Clancy-like thriller stuff), and I've been enjoying it very much. So the other night I logged onto Amazon to see what else the guy had written and ran across the reviews for The Shark Mutiny. And everyone hated it! Virtually all bad reviews; 2 stars average, maybe. And I noticed instantly that I was enjoying the book less myself. It was the same old book, but it had just been bombarded by negative waves.

Do people consider that when they make a negative comment or write a negative review that they're simply adding to the World Negativity Quotient(WNQ)? In my experience at least 75% of the material on internet forums consists of simple negativity and out-and-out rudeness. Who raised these people; were they taught no manners at all? Did their mother not tell them that, "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all?" Or am I just prejudiced because I was raised in the South?

Consider that for every negative comment loosed on the world, somewhere out there is a receptor for it (or, thanks to the internet, thousands of receptors). Consider that your one piece of blithe negativity may have an adverse affect on thousands of otherwise positive people--a powerful position for one nattering nabob.

It's way past time for a return to simple civility. Enough with the negative waves, Moriarty.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Southland Bookstore show

If any of you are near Maryville, Tennessee over the next four weeks, all my prints and four of my World War 2 oil paintings will be on display at the new Southland Bookstore location in Maryville.

During the bookstore's open house this Saturday, there will be an artist's reception from 5-6 pm (with foodstuffs from ArtyAppetites and new summer coffee samples)and the Doug Harris jazz band from 7 til 8 pm. Southland has a huge and varied collection of used books, a coffee bar, and a stained glass studio.

Southland Books' new location is at 801 E. Broadway, across Washington St. from the old store.

See you there!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Speaking of Ellen Terry

While browsing the net the other day, looking for Ellen Terry material, I came across this site:

Here you will find an interview with Ellen Terry, recorded during a seance in 1965 (Terry died in 1928).

As the web site says: "it explains what the afterlife is and encourages us to look forward to it as the most wonderful part of our eternal lives. She explains the condition people find themselves in and the fact that there is no hell, only each person's assessment of his life."

It's a very lengthy (and somewhat wordy) dissertation by Ms. Terry, and, in my opinion, isn't so much interesting for its content as it is for the simple fact of its existence.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Pray, Love, Remember

My friend, Linda, has chastised me for not keeping up with my blog, so I'm making another effort.

Here's a photo from my easel of my latest, unfinished, on-going effort: Ellen Terry, the famous British actress, as Ophelia. The title of the piece will be: "Pray, Love, remember." The scene is from Ophelia's mad scene, as she's wandering through the castle, recounting the flowers in her hands: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember. And there is Pansies; that's for thoughts."

I thought I was about half-finished with this painting at the end of March, but as it turned out, I was only about one-sixteenth finished. Much work is still left to do, but it's mostly tweaking and refining at this point.

The great challenge with historical art is the attempt to be accurate, an attempt made more difficult by the necessity of working within a budget and a timeframe.

I've read Ellen Terry's memoirs, at least as they relate to her role as Ophelia, and I have a studio photo of her in costume, which is what this art is mostly based on. Recently, however, Google has placed online a number of out-of-copyright books, one of which is Henry Irving's memoirs. Irving was the actor/producer who hired Ellen Terry for the part of Ophelia, and then played Hamlet in the production. In his book, Irving notes that Terry played the part with an "armload" of flowers, including Lilies. Unfortunately, as you can see, I have handfuls, instead of armloads (and no Lilies, but alas, poor Yorick, at this point, that's how it's going to stay). Another recent Google book entry notes Terry's costume as "white samite," a heavy, medieval silk. Well, the photo looked like wool to me [heavy sigh]. However, I did manage to make it white-ish.

I don't know if any of you have noticed this or not, but when you're searching in Google, particularly for obscure historical reference and pictures, the search results vary, sometimes dramatically, from week to week (I've been searching for Victorian actress photos since July). It makes it difficult/impossible to say, "yes, I have the definitive visual information on this piece," when the next week, there might be a whole new portfolio of photos posted. Certainly makes it interesting.

Doing WW2 art seems to be much easier.